In Idaho, a “family vacation” means a no-stress, low-cost adventure that parents and kids of all ages will never forget. When planning your family’s trip to the Gem State, consider incorporating a couple of the top-10 family-friendly adventures into your itinerary. Fun times will follow.
1. Bike the Hiawatha Trail – In northern Idaho, the Route of the Hiawatha is a 14 mile bike path along an old 1900’s railroad route. This trail takes riders through ten tunnels and across seven high trestles and across the Bitterroot Mountains to the Idaho/Montana border. Families can rent bikes and bike trailers from the Lookout Pass Recreation Area, the operator of the trail. Day tickets are only $9 for adults and $6 for kids. Taking snacks or a picnic is a good idea for keeping the energy levels up. (Check out this video for a glimpse of what the Route of the Hiawatha has to offer!)
2. Learn to Cast Your Own Line – The Snake River runs throughout Idaho and some of the best fly-fishing in the world is in the Ketchum and Sun Valley area. Local outfitters like the Silver Creek Outfitters offer highly customized, guided trips, usually for two people – the perfect father and son outing.
3. Learn to Ice Skate in the Summer – Central Idaho is home to Sun Valley, the tucked-away Idaho resort town that’s famous for being the first destination ski resort-in the nation. But Sun Valley is a blast in the summer too. Against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, kids can learn to ice skate on the Sun Valley Resort’s outdoor ice skating rink. Or watch Olympic medalists and world-class figure skaters perform on Saturday nights, July 2 through September 3 during the Sun Valley Summer Ice Shows.
4. Explore Craters of the Moon – East of Sun Valley, the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is a sprawling 750,000 acres of lava flows. Kids can pick up a copy of the Lunar Ranger booklet at the visitor center, complete its activities throughout the day and earn a Lunar Ranger badge. Craters of the Moon National Monument is an endless playground that will fuel kids’ imaginations and give them plenty of rare geography to explore. Video:
5. Ride a horse in the Wild West – Saddle up! Many Idaho outfitters and guest ranches offer horseback riding lessons and trail ride experiences. Lewis & Clark Adventures of Gibbonsville, in central Idaho, takes families on horseback and rafting tours along the same route that Lewis and Clark traveled with Sacajawea. This trip pairs adventure and education as kids and parents learn about the land and the history of the pioneers who explored it.
6. Actually, DO Feed the Bears – Visit Yellowstone Bear World in Rexburg, Idaho for some up-close and personal interaction with the wild. Here, visitors can bottle feed bear cubs with the assistance of professional keepers. Curator tours take visitors through the park in a secure, open-top vehicle. Rocky Mountain elk, bison, moose, wolves and bears are just a few of the wild animals that roam the park. Video: www.greatidahogetaway.org
7. Ride Whitewater Like a Pro – Idaho has more miles of whitewater than any other state in the contiguous U.S. The Idaho Whitewater Guide is an online resource for family-friendly trips and outfitters that can get you in the raft and on the river.
8. Float the Boise River – A pleasant surprise smack in the middle of Idaho’s capital city, the Boise River runs right through downtown. A favorite summertime activity for locals and out-of-towners is to float this pristine, crystal clear river. Epley’s, a local outfitter, rents rafts and tubes and offers shuttle services that take rafters between the put-in and take-out locations. Alcohol is prohibited on the river, allowing for a family-friendly environment.
9. Bruneau Dunes State Park – Climb up, slide down, and run around. At 470 feet, Bruneau Dunes has the tallest single-structure sand dune in North America. The dunes offer countless physical, fun challenges and endless exploration. The small lakes at the base of the dunes are fun for frolicking and fishing. And if you camp for a night, don’t miss the chance to see the stars from the Bruneau Observatory located right in the park.
10. Take a Dip in Nature’s Hot Tubs – Idaho has more natural hot springs than any other state. Often, getting to the hot springs is half the adventure. Near McCall, the Burgdorf Hot Springs are located around the old town site of Burgdorf, which was settled in 1870 and is now considered a ghost town. Families can rent cabins and stay for the night, soak in the hot springs and explore the wide-open natural surroundings. Better known, the town of Lava Hot Springs earned its name from the local hot springs where Indian tribes gathered for centuries. Today visitors enjoy the odor-free mineral pools and an indoor mineral spring swimming pool with family recreational facilities like a poolside climbing wall.
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